Forget Goals, Embrace Healthy Systems

Forget Goals, Embrace Healthy Systems

In this article, we are going to discuss some systems that you can implement in regards to your life. These life systems will help improve your mood, which will help you play better poker.

To get the best results you are going to need to track every day you fulfill a system. If you do the work required by the system, write the date down in a notebook page dedicated to that system, and number the entries. At the top of the page, write in big letters what your target accuracy percentage is. Do you want to perform this system 60% of the days? 80% of the days? Know what you’re aiming for, implement the small but rigorous changes, track everything, and do the work. By the end of the month, see what percentage of the days you followed through on your goal.

These are the systems that have helped me the most in life and career. Decide which ones will work for you.

Drink A Gallon Of Water Per Day

You naturally mellow out when you are hydrated. It stops you from snacking on energy depleting foods. It’s easy to drink a gallon of water too. Get a water bottle that can hold a liter of water. Put some pitchers in your refrigerator with tap water. Pour the cold water into your water bottle whenever you want some ice water. Finish a liter of water right when you wake up. Refill it. Down it again with each meal. When you have a cup of coffee, keep dehydration at bay by downing the water again. You’ll find drinking cold water actually is fairly easy when you parse it out like this. You only need to drink four liters to get to a gallon. Everyone should aim to do this 90% of their days.

No Processed Sugar, No Grains

I was in the worst shape of my life in 2016. In 2019, I got into the best shape of my life, hitting my personal records in the weight room and getting my body fat down. The process, which saw me losing 55 pounds and then packing on muscle, wasn’t as hard as you’d think. It simply took one system implemented each day. That was no processed sugar, no grains. It’s pretty simple. You load up on vegetables and lean proteins. No one has ever discovered anything wrong with a green vegetable. Broccoli technically has more protein per calorie than steak.

Just go to the grocery store and get turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, avocados, mixed nuts, and small amounts of cheese. Grab your broccoli, asparagus, and spinach too. The easiest meals in the world to cook are protein and vegetables. If you’re scared of the vegetables, get the frozen fresh variety and heat them up. If you still think you can’t cook a lean protein, focus on baking fish. Baking many varieties of fish is about the easiest dish in the world to cook up. Google how much time it takes and what temperature. Put it in the oven with some salt and pepper on it, set the timer, pull it out. Anyone can do it. Wild salmon is so delicious on its own it doesn’t even require much, although I’d recommend diced garlic on top of it.

Whenever you’re dying for carbs or sugar, I’d recommend having a small amount of fruit. Many of the diet people on the internet will tell you this is sacrilegious. However, our real goal is to get you clear-headed and focused through a clean diet. We want you to have energy at the tables and in your day job. If you’re performing well at work, with your family, and with your spouse that will put you in the right mindset to succeed on the felt. In my experience, what impedes that the most is processed food, not fruit. It’s all the fast food, fried food, candy, and heavy white carbs. It’s not a handful of blueberries.

If you want to go real hardcore with this, have your first meal of the day at 2:00 PM. Your body will get used to not having breakfast. There’s an adjustment, but it gets there. Then, at 2:00 PM, eat a large meal. Have a smaller leaner dinner at night. Munch on mixed nuts, slices of lean proteins, and small amounts of cheese if you get hungry.

The great part about this system is if you maintain it 90% of days it seems to have great results. If one day out of ten you decide to grab some pizza, it doesn’t seem to effect things much. You can save up those days for a vacation. You can still eat the foods you want, you just do it in moderation. You’ll find you’ll enjoy your food more when you watch your intake most days. Desserts taste extremely sweet when you haven’t had them in a while. White carbs are to die for when you’ve earned them.

I’d just recommend you not schedule your dietary days off for when you’re playing. Grains, carbs, and processed sugar gives you a glycemic spike and then a crash. It is extremely difficult to play through a crash. Rely on the almonds and avocados if you’re playing.

Make Coffee At Home And Watch Your Caffeine Intake

Everyone needs to find what their maximum caffeine allotment is and stick to it. Pay attention to yourself. Is it two cups that gets you jittery? Three cups a day? Does the effect change if you drink water with each cup? Many poker players have addictive personalities. Most of them largely cut the drugs and booze out at some point in order to stay competitive, but their addictive personality keeps them diving for the coffee. Make your coffee at home so you’re not spending thousands of dollars a year on it. A reusable steel filter will make better coffee than what you’ll get at Starbucks. Don’t put any of the sugars or fake sugars in it, because they all seem to cause a spike in energy followed by a crash. If you do this 80% of days, you’ll save a ton of money and cause yourself not to burn out on the felt.


Truthfully, it’s likely humans need to exercise every single day. Think of what happens to a dog if you keep it holed up in a small room all day. The dog goes insane. Homo sapiens are far more complex than dogs. They need far more stimulation. If you can work out in some fashion 80% of the days you are on this Earth, you will be way ahead of many poker players. Working out doesn’t mean running a half marathon. It can mean playing pick-up basketball for an hour. It can mean going on a walk with your spouse. It just needs to be something.

There are reams of evidence now about how exercise helps you process stress differently, create new brain cells, learn more effectively, etc. It truly is a miracle drug. Public schools that have implemented intense physical education courses have seen their test scores dramatically rise!If I could make one suggestion, however, it would be to lift weights. Strength training has been the best bang for the buck time-wise I’ve ever found in exercise. If you’re a male, it helps you jack up your testosterone considerably, no supplements required. It puts you into a better mood and makes you more assertive in life.

Read A Grounding Book Daily

There’s considerable speculation now that all of our screens are making us anxious. The blue light seems to have an effect on our circadian rhythms. It gives us perpetual jet lag which stunts the psyche. That’s before we even discuss the effects of social media. What is the antidote for this anxiousness? A physical book. Cognitive neuropsychologists are studying it now. They find it is a greater stress reducer than walking or listening to music.

What book should you read? That’s up to you. If you’re a religious man or woman, you can read your chosen text. If you’re not religious, I’d recommend the Stoic philosophers. It’s incredible how much of their musings still apply to day-to-day life. It’s actually jarring. If that’s not your bag, the Tao Te Ching is fantastic too. A book of stirring quotes is also great to meditate on. Just pick some way to disconnect. Do it as many days as possible.

Sleep At Least Seven Hours A Night

Pretty no brainer stuff, I know, but we need to discuss it. I don’t know many people who have abused their sleep hygiene more than I have. I look for low-to-mid stakes games live and online. If I find a good one, I don’t want to leave. It’s an obsession I have. Abusing my sleep cycles has gotten me ahead, but it has taken its toll. When you observe good sleep hygiene for a week, you can feel a complete difference. There is no way to play a major tournament without observing good sleep hygiene. Get your ear plugs. Get your eye mask. Do whatever you have to. It’s important.


Honestly, if you do just the systems I wrote out in the past couple of articles, you’ll find yourself playing much better. Most of the game is paying attention, staying patient, and thinking clearly. Taking care of your health and poker study is 99% of that process. The hardest part is simply following through. That said, it is meritocratic and beautiful how everything in poker is open to anyone who is willing to do the work.

I sincerely hope the person who wants it bad enough is you.

Good luck to all of you.

About The Author

In addition to battling on the felt for over 13 years, having final tabled multiple prestigious events such as EPTs, WCOOPs, and FTOPs, Alexander “Assassinato” Fitzgerald has found massive success in teaching the game of poker to thousands of students. The American pro has become a prolific poker content producer, writing two best-selling books and sharing his views on effective exploitative plays and math-based techniques in numerous articles, videos, and webinars you can find on

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